Memories from the Korean War
Veteran Frank Slade recollects some of the horrors of war
ST. ANTHONY, NL – Frank Slade vividly remembers the little Korean boy he found, screeching in terror.
It was 1952, in the middle of the Korean War where Slade was serving.
The four-year-old orphan child had been staying in a United Nations “compound,” surrounded by barbed wire. Slade was on guard duty.
The second day he was there, a shell exploded.
“I heard this explosion and I heard this little boy screaming,” he recalled.
When Slade rushed in, the boy was buried up to his waist in sand.
He had lost an eye.
The Canadian soldier sped into action and started digging the boy out with a shovel.
What he found when the boy was dug out accentuated the nightmare: his legs had been blown off beneath the knees.
Slade had to act quickly. He cut up his shirt, tying it tightly around the wounded area to prevent further bleeding.
He called up an American medical team, which picked up the child to take him away to the hospital.
The boy waved goodbye as he got on the ambulance.
Slade never saw him again.
St. Anthony’s Frank Slade enlisted in the Korean War in 1952 as a 22-year-old.
His path to that point was somewhat unusual.
After becoming an American citizen while he was working with his aunt in the United States, he was drafted to serve in the US military in Korea.
Holding dual citizenship, he had a choice to either serve or to head back home to Canada.
Slade opted to return to the Great White North, but it was there that fate intervened.
At the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, an old childhood friend from St. Anthony happily greeted Slade.
There sat Donald Penney, dressed in uniform.
As the two old friends conversed over some beers, Slade learned Penney had enlisted in the Royal Canadian Regiment and had already served three months in the Korean War.
Now, Penney was trying to convince him to sign up too.
Nevertheless, Slade left the tavern that night still unconvinced. But he slept on it and the next morning, thought it over some more.
Changing his mind, he decided he would stand with his old friend on the battlefields of Korea.
When Slade arrived in that foreign land, fate intervened once more, He and Penney were placed in the same company – but their time serving together would end tragically.
On July 20, 1953, Penney lost his life and Slade barely escaped with his. July 20
There were three of them together, including the two young St. Anthony friends, in a trench about five feet deep.
Slade was shaving out of a lunch can held in his hand when suddenly, there was an explosion.
An 81-mm rocket from the enemy struck them.
A piece of metal shell flew towards Slade, striking the can in his hand. He was pushed up against the trench by sheer force, injuring his cervical spine in the process.
But he made it out of there alive.
The doctor told him it was the sturdy lunch can that saved his life. He still has that can to this very day.
The other man, Reid, was wounded at the hip.
Sadly, Penney wasn’t as fortunate. The explosion killed him instantly. He was the last Canadian to be killed in action in Korea.
The war ended just seven days later.
“If I had known, I’d have to go through that, I would have never went to Korea.”
Frank Slade, 87, served in the Korean War from 1952 to 1953. Over his shoulder on the wall is a photo of himself at the age of 22. The picture was taken on a train on the way to Vancouver after Slade enlisted.
Frank Slade shows off some of his medals, including one that he received from the government of South Korea.
Frank Slade holds the sturdy shaving can that saved his life. On July 20, 1953, an 81-mm rocket struck Slade and two other members of his company, killing his friend Donald Penney. Slade was shaving at the time, and it was this can that blocked a piece of metal shell flying towards him. The shell surely would have killed Slade had it struck him. The dent where the shell struck the can is still visible.